Our history

“Now gentlemen, I want to found a hospital for the treatment of cancer, and for the study of the disease, for at the present time we know absolutely nothing about it.”

Dr William Marsden – 1851

The Royal Marsden was the first hospital in the world dedicated to the study and treatment of cancer. It was founded as the Free Cancer Hospital in 1851 by Dr William Marsden at 1 Cannon Row, Westminster.

Marsden, deeply affected by the death of his wife Elizabeth Ann from cancer, resolved to classify tumours, research the causes and find new treatments.

Early days

The hospital at first consisted solely of a dispensary and the drugs prescribed were palliative and aimed at treating symptoms, but it allowed William Marsden the opportunity to study and research the disease.

The hospital quickly outgrew its original premises as it became apparent that some patients required inpatient care. It moved locations several times during the 1850s until its benefactors decided to find a permanent solution.

In 1855, the board obtained the patronage of Baroness Burdett-Coutts, whose loan of £3,000 made it possible to purchase the Fulham Road site – about an acre of land. Architect David Mocatta drew up designs for the hospital and the foundation stone was laid by Baroness Coutts on 30 May 1859. The hospital opened to patients at its new site on Fulham Road in 1862.

Royal Charter of Incorporation

The hospital was granted its Royal Charter of Incorporation by King George V in 1910 and became known as The Cancer Hospital (Free). This was subsequently changed by King Edward VIII to include the word ‘Royal’ and in 1954 the hospital was renamed The Royal Marsden Hospital in recognition of the vision and commitment of its founder.

Creation of the NHS and expansion to Sutton

When the NHS was formed in 1948 The Royal Marsden became a postgraduate teaching hospital. In response to the need to expand to treat more patients and train more doctors, a second hospital in Sutton, Surrey, was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 20 May 1963.

Sutton and Merton Community Services

The Royal Marsden took over responsibility for providing Sutton and Merton Community Services in April 2011. These services include health visiting, specialist community nursing, outpatient physiotherapy, podiatry, a falls service and children’s physiotherapy, all in the Sutton and Merton area.

Our achievements

The Royal Marsden is proud of its record of achievement:

  • In 1991 we became the first NHS hospital to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Technology for its work on drug development.
  • We achieved the international quality standard ISO 9001 for radiotherapy in 1996 and for chemotherapy in 2003.
  • We have consistently met the Customer Service Excellence standard (formerly Charter Mark) for our services.
  • In April 2004, we became one of the country’s first NHS Foundation Trusts. This new status has provided the financial freedom and greater flexibility to focus on allowing more patients to access our expertise.
  • In 2006 and again in 2011, The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research were designated the UK’s only Biomedical Research Centre for Cancer by The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). This involved a £10 million annual research grant and £6 million capital investment to build a state-of-the-art Translational Research Centre.
  • We have been rated as one of the top performing hospitals in the country in the 2011 Picker inpatient and outpatient surveys.
  • Today, The Royal Marsden, in association with The Institute of Cancer Research, has an unrivalled worldwide reputation for its patient care, cancer research and education.

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Accreditations Royal Marsden Crest